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Sports Backers Blog

From Participant to Warrior: The Fitness Warriors Journey

By: Elicia Gordon, Fitness Warriors 5th Class Graduate


Who in the world would put me in charge of motivating other people!?!? No one in their right mind…or so I thought. It was challenging enough to try to keep myself motivated. But sometimes you decide to make a minor decision which ends up being life changing. That’s how I went from being a Fitness Warriors class participant, to an applicant, to a recruit, to a proud graduate.

Approximately three years ago, a co-worker hung up a flyer in the office break room for a free outdoor boot camp at the local farmer’s market. I told my mother about the boot camp and did a little research about the farmer’s market. To be absolutely honest, my mother and I were more interested in the farmer’s market and food truck than we were in the free boot camp! Nonetheless, we decided to go. The boot camp lasted for about five months. We would attend when we were in town, and if we had out-of-town guests, we would bring them to the boot camp. The instructor, Emily, had an infectious personality. She was always smiling, always laughing, and always kicking our butts! After attending a few classes, and secretly waiting for her to start charging us some kind of fee, my mother and I would ask a few questions here and there. Finally, we had to know: why in the world was she providing a FREE boot camp!?!? She happily shared information about the Fitness Warriors program and the free classes they provide all over the Richmond area.

The Application

Eventually, the boot camp ended. It was over, and I was done with Emily…or so I thought. She messaged me later and told me about the Fitness Warriors application and upcoming deadline. I was extremely hesitant about applying. First of all, I am no Warrior nor am I even extremely fit. Second, I didn’t have the time. And finally, please see reasons one and two. After researching the program, I realized I was in awe of the purpose and mission of the Warriors. The Fitness Warriors program trains members of the community with talent, passion, and potential to be professional fitness instructors in neighborhoods with the highest rates of chronic disease. Fitness Warriors break down barriers to physical activity and provide fitness opportunities to residents of all corners of the Richmond region and teach hundreds of hours of free fitness classes through schools, churches, senior residences, community centers, and other settings.

However, I did NOT believe in myself enough to apply. Emily’s encouragement is the ONLY reason I applied. Even after applying, I still did not think anyone would follow up with me. I forgot about it…until one day during Christmas break, when I got an email from the program managers about an interview session!

The Interview

Interview day arrived quickly, and I was nervous, scared, and excited. Of course, once I arrived, again, I felt like I did not belong in this program. Luckily for me, I was invited to join. I shared the news with my family and my mother, and they were more excited than I was about completing the program. As I walked into the first day of training, I realized the broad range of skills and experience of the other candidates within the program. Some were marathon runners, or CrossFit members, some were beginners on their fitness journey, and some were just confused. I may have been the confused one, but it immediately felt like home!

The Supportive Family

From day one, we were a family. Within this family, we laugh together, we cry together, we run together, and we work out together. We continue to support one another by visiting each other’s classes and promoting them to our own class participants. We text each other silly memes and workout ideas. We ask for advice, we vent, and we pick one another up as needed.

Recently, I was invited to a class participant’s baby shower. She had been attending classes before and during her pregnancy. As soon as I arrived, she ran to greet me and introduce me to her family. Everyone “knew” me as the exercise lady, but now they could put a face to a name. The experience was mind-blowing! I had no idea anyone was going home excited after sweating for an hour.

Although I’ve been an English teacher in schools for over a decade, teaching adults was new to me. Teaching my own class has provided me with another family. They ask about my day at work, we celebrate new babies, we celebrate marriages, and we support one another through bad days and injuries. Do I get tired? Do I want a day off? Do I run out of class ideas?  Yes, yes, and yes! However, when we have unscheduled building cancellations, I realize I am bored on Thursday from 5:35pm-6:35m, when I would normally be at Ettrick Community Center in South Chesterfield. Notice the shameless class plug!

Start Your Journey

I do not know what I would be doing right now had I not applied; maybe I would be working out on my own or maybe I would be attending classes of other Fitness Warriors. However, I DO know that I would have lost out on building great relationships with my community members and fellow Fitness Warriors. Whether it’s the decision to apply to the program or just attend a class, saying yes to either will be something you never regret. We are looking for the next class of Warriors now, so fill out an application before the May 4 deadline to get started on your fitness journey!

Elicia Gordon is a graduate of Fitness Warriors 5th Class and currently teaches her class, ‘Goals with Gordon,’ Thursdays from 5:35pm-6:35pm at Ettrick Community Center. To find a class or contact a Fitness Warriors instructor, see the full Fitness Warriors Class Schedule.